These days, one must make an impression in order to survive. Competition is hotter than ever with the likes of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW conquering the luxury sedan world. There are, however, some worthy alternatives that are making the right impression, and are slowly but surely expanding their market share. Let’s have a look at the 2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD, a car with an edgy appeal and brute force. The IS is a fan favourite amongst those who have a passion for the Lexus marque. They are known to be bulletproof, allowing their owners to drive on without worry of a fatal engine collapse or a cataclysmic electronics failure.
The biggest issue that Lexus faces is the embedded stigma that a Lexus is seen as your grandfather’s car. Lately, the design language used by the engineers over at Lexus proves to be a hard push forward to step away from that thought. In the past, their cars were admittedly uninteresting, though highly reliable and comfortable. Looking at the IS 350 today is like looking at an old friend you haven’t seen for years, and who underwent an incredible makeover. For 2017, the IS does receive some minor updates that keep it looking fresh when placed beside some of its popular rivals.
The general shape of the car remains the same, with the same signature swooping line that extends off the taillights along the side of the car. The taillights in question have changed ever so slightly, with a new amber section for turning signals, and redesigned LED brake lights, paired with LED reverse lights as an added touch of premium affluence. At the rear we also find a new set of sculpted tailpipes that follow the lines of the body, replacing the circular pipes of the outgoing model. More updates can be found on the fascia of the IS 350, with new headlights beaming a fresh shape.
The new bumper also creates a pretty significant impression, with larger intakes on either side of the bumper and a more aggressive spindle grill. The IS 350 gets gloss black inserts lining both air intakes on the bumper, which are connected to the pieces integrated into the new grill as part of the F-Sport Aero Pack with the F-Sport Series 3 package ($1,300). This car would benefit from the added touch of LED turn signals, a piece of tech which most of the serious competition has already adopted.
When first picking up this vehicle, the Redline paint appeared a little too loud for a car like this, which again, Is where the classic Lexus stigma comes into play. After walking around a few times, the colour grew on us more and more, and by the time our test ended, we were all of the belief that this is arguably the most flattering available colour. This is especially so when considering the 18” F-Sport wheels, and the rest of the F-Sport kitting applied to the vehicle.
The IS 350 looks sporty and is plastered with F Sport accessories, but does it drive like a proper sports sedan? The 3.5L V6 engine is the same that is found in the IS 300, though the IS 350 receives a more forceful tune to increase the output to 306 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 277 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 RPM. In Canada, we’re restricted to a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system. Our friends down south have the option of an eight-speed automatic with a rear-wheel-drive system for improved fuel efficiency, among other benefits.
This makes the IS 350 the only car in its class to not offer an eight-speed automatic with all-wheel-drive. With our six-speed and AWD, the car exhibits a 0 to 100km/h time of 6.5 seconds with an engine that sports a mesmerizing tone. It’s not “fake engine noise”, as synthesized through the speakers by rivals such as BMW (reviewed here), but actual intake noise piped into the cabin. The six-speed does reduce how efficiently the car consumes fuel, and while Lexus rates the car at 9.2L/100km highway and 12.6L/100km city, we could only manage a combined average of 12.8L/100km on 91-octane premium.
The cabin of the IS 350 follows suit in proper F-Sport fashion, with a three-spoke sport steering wheel with heat, and F-Sport bucket seats, heated and cooled. The perforated leather wheel adds that extra sensation of a modern sports car, though many of the buttons found on the wheel and throughout the cabin look slightly dated. The overall design of the cabin is very form fitting, with very little room to spare for passengers. Whereas the exterior of the car is sharp and full of straight angles, the interior feels very tight, especially when noting some odd shapes on the dashboard.
Lexus is using a variety of different technology inside the cabin, with a slight mixture of tactile buttons and touch-sensitive “buttons” used for climate control. One piece of tech that seems to be a signature element within the Lexus family is the use of a mouse to control the infotainment – RTI (Remote Touch Interface), a less than ideal alternative to the much better rotary devices used by rivals from Germany. This technology requires more focus from the user since the mouse isn’t all that precise, causing a bit of distraction. Sometimes, less is more.
Part of the F-Sport package is an LF-A inspired TFT instrument cluster for the driver, which moves from left to right at the push of a button, displaying more advanced information. This digital display acts just as that of the Lexus supercar, with a rev-counter that turns bright red as the RPMs rise closer to redline; a cool feature that any car enthusiast can appreciate. Other toys passengers can enjoy are the 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, a rear window sunshade and power moonroof, all park of the F-Sport Series 3 package.
The 2017 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport AWD is going to be one that pleases customers all over the nation. It may not be the most popular option with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (reviewed here) and BMW 3-series taking up most the market share, but Lexus is surely putting up a fight to take up more of this segment with their weapon of choice. There are still a few quirks Lexus needs to figure out, but the 2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD makes for a suitable option for those looking for soldi reliability, luxury and style in the compact segment.